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Planning for my bucket list

Old 08-16-15, 08:11 PM
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Planning for my bucket list

I'm currently 58 and if all goes to plan I hope to retire in four years. One of my retirement bucket list items is do a long riding tour. Using the poker term, "go big or stay home" I've decided to plan big. My dream tour is to ride around the Great Lakes. On a whim I tentatively mapped out a route that I think is doable in about 60 days, give or take a few. If there is one thing I'm willing to admit it's I don't know what I don't know. So I plan to invest some time in this forum over the next few years taking advantage of others' experiences and start doing weekend and 2-3 day tours to see if I really want to tackle something as large as the Great Lakes. As of now, my bike of choice would be my Giant cross-trainer with triple gears up front and 27 total gears but I don't yet know if it can accommodate panniers. My only other bike is a 1975 Schwinn Varsity I've plowed money into to rebuild. Although it has a sturdy steel frame it is 40 years old and only has 10 gears. I've looked into trying to add more gearing but I'm told the design just won't accommodate a third gear up front or additional gears in the rear. Anyway, I'm real excited about exploring this forum and all it has to offer. Thanks for letting me join!
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Old 08-16-15, 11:28 PM
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You might want to look at the Ontario thread as it deals with roads around the Great Lakes.

I don't know if go big or go home makes a lot of sense in touring or poker, unless you are already a leading player. A lot of people plan big and fail big with that approach, touring is easy and tough. It's easy because it is just loafing along on a bike while camping, but it can really take all some people have to give. The keyy difference is often approach. If you stay comfy and happy, you can stay out 6 days or 60, but setting big goals and breaking your balls to get them done often just leads to misery.

Other thing is arbitrary goals. Touring with good weather, beautiful sights, and nice spots to camp is really heaven. But just drawing lines on maps may yield a lot of very boring and unrewarding riding. I live next to a lake that is about 25 miles long, and at other times of the year, lake ONtario. There is a lot of riding where you don't know the lake is there for every short section in view of the lake. Just be sure it is really what you want.
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Old 08-17-15, 06:15 AM
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Especially for someone with some outdoor experience in like backpacking or canoe camping I don't see any reason that go big or go home should be a big problem. I along with two other touring newbies did the Trans America as our first bike tour. We were all pretty familiar with self supported travel and all of our equipment though. We went with just a few weeks between deciding to go and hopping on a plane for the west coast. All went very well. It sounds like you plan some shakedown trips so you should have things well sorted out ahead of time.

As far as learning from the forums... My advice is to be careful not to get too caught up in a lot of what folks talk about wanting/needing gear wise. Reading on the forums you might get the idea that certain gear items and brands are a necessity, when in fact they are far from it. It is very possible to tour without needing a lot of upgrades to your bike or a lot of very expensive gear items.

Also it is possible to carry very little and be comfortable and happy on tour. Some may want to carry a little more and some a lot more, but don't start with the assumption that you need to. How much gear it takes to be comfy will vary with the rider, but I know that I have found that it is possible to get by with a very small amount of relatively inexpensive gear.

I recommend not doing a lot of detailed planning of route and schedule. An open ended flexible schedule is a joy and a rigid schedule can be a joy killer. The same applies to budgets. It is always nice to have more time and money than you will need.

Also don't assume that you need more stuff for a long tour than a short one. I have found that I take almost exactly the same items regardless of trip length.

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Old 08-17-15, 10:13 AM
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My first tour was 200 miles in 4 days, went with a friend and it was his first tour also. Next one was around 300 or maybe 350 miles or so, I do not recall how many days but I think about six, with the same friend. It might be best to build up to a multi-month tour with something longer than a few days.

Do not rule out some tours with a tour group or with Adventure Cycling Assoc. They have many that are about a week long, would be a good way to get used to a slightly longer trip. They do the logistics planning, thus you can get used to longer touring while you learn from others. Then when you are ready to plan a tour where you are doing the logistics, you have a better idea of how to proceed.

I would not want to tour on a 40 year old Schwinn. In four years I think there will be a lot of changes in hardware for bike touring, so instead of thinking about the bikes you have, I think you should watch the market to see what new things are coming out and buy a bike later. While I am perfectly content to use 10 to 15 year old components and technology, even I will admit that there is some pretty good looking new stuff coming out. Just a month ago I bought a new headlamp for my dynohub that also has a USB charger built into it, something that a year ago I would never would have dreamed of buying.

Regarding your route, I live in Wisconsin. If I wanted to plan what you are looking at, I would take the ferry across Lake Michigan to avoid Chicago. You might think cutting some miles off is cheating, but that is what I would do.

Originally Posted by staehpj1
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Also don't assume that you need more stuff for a long tour than a short one. I have found that I take almost exactly the same items regardless of trip length.
My last trip was a month and a half, because it was a longer trip than a week I brought a bigger tube of tooth paste, a bit more shampoo and a bit more dish soap. But otherwise essentially the same stuff.

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Old 08-17-15, 10:34 AM
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My going all in was landing at the NL International AMS Shiphol airport un boxing my bike, putting my gear bags on it,

following the signs rode to the seacoast town of Zandvoort.

Paid the camp ground owner, next day un jetlagged,, I went into the city . all winging it.. I bought a map ..

Falk made 1, highlighted bike-path routes .. cleverly it is cut so you unfold just the part you need but it is a large panel Map
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Old 08-17-15, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN

Regarding your route, I live in Wisconsin. If I wanted to plan what you are looking at, I would take the ferry across Lake Michigan to avoid Chicago. You might think cutting some miles off is cheating, but that is what I would do.
The stretch that worries more than Chicago is getting through Gary/Hammond/East Chicago. I think once I hit Chicago I can take the Lake Shore Parkway all the way north to Evanston. And Detroit, that worries me too. But I thought I'd start just south of Detroit on a Sunday morning and by early afternoon I can be in the northern suburbs. Thanks for the feedback, really appreciate your insight and experience.
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Old 08-17-15, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Especially for someone with some outdoor experience in like backpacking or canoe camping I don't see any reason that go big or go home should be a big problem. I along with two other touring newbies did the Trans America as our first bike tour. We were all pretty familiar with self supported travel and all of our equipment though.
I don't think a trans falls into the same category, since it is about as conventional as buying blue chips vs betting it all on high stakes poker games. That said there are plenty of people who choked on a trans, you are the guy who did it, then posted 8K posts on this forum, so you are kinda pre-aproved. Taking any random trans aspirant is not going to end up describing a you.

As hard as it is to believe, there is a big difference between people who do stuff, and people who enjoy it. Folks can gear up for something like a trans and they never do another tour their whole life, and at the other extreme there is Stucke, who has been touring for 50 years fairly non-stop.
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Old 08-18-15, 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by axel8
The stretch that worries more than Chicago is getting through Gary/Hammond/East Chicago. I think once I hit Chicago I can take the Lake Shore Parkway all the way north to Evanston. And Detroit, that worries me too. But I thought I'd start just south of Detroit on a Sunday morning and by early afternoon I can be in the northern suburbs. Thanks for the feedback, really appreciate your insight and experience.
Southside Chicago is a bit sketchy, but fear not. They have built a new road, fixed some streets. Just stay on the main US-41 going north.
You don't have to ride through Gary, there is a wonderful bike path further south, called Erie Lackawanna Trail which starts at Summit St. in Crown Point, IN. But it connects further north with the Oak Savannah Trail which connects with the Prairie Duneland Trail starting in Chesterton. From there US-12 turning into Red Arrow Hwy turning into Blue Star Hwy going up to Muskegon is a nice route. Muskegon State Park in Michigan has a nice camp ground.
When I lived in the US, we rode that route many many times.
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Old 08-18-15, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by MassiveD
Folks can gear up for something like a trans and they never do another tour their whole life, and at the other extreme there is Stucke, who has been touring for 50 years fairly non-stop.
I think doing a Trans America as a first and only tour is pretty common. A fairly large percentage of the folks we met on the TA were doing it as what they expected to be a one time thing. Many were doing it as an after college fling. There were also some doing it as an after retirement fling. A good portion of the folks I met on the TA were much more focused on doing a TA for the sake of doing a TA more so than for becoming bike tourists.

I think that may be kind of unique to that particular route though as I have not observed the same on other routes. The route started out as Bikecentennial, where lots of folks did it to see the US and celebrate the bicentennial year much more so than to become bike tourists. I think that kind of lives on today.

I do suspect that some of the one time tourists I met on the TA will come back to touring at some point later in their lives.

BTW, since you mentioned Stucke, I will say that for me being on the road full time has absolutely no appeal at all. I am generally very ready to go home to my family and my dog at the end of my tours. On the other hand, for me, really short tours have all the appeal of camping in the back yard. I think that if I had started out doing overnight or weekend tours I would have lost interest quickly. Everyone is different.

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Old 08-18-15, 07:17 PM
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Good to know Scummer, thanks. I'll file that away for future reference.
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